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Better Grammar: Part IV: Dependent-Clause Fragments

Updated: Nov 24

Dependent clause fragments and how to correct them for writing better sentences.

Introduction - Become better in grammar

In this article I explain the fourth kind of fragment – the dependent-clause fragment.

Even though a dependent clause has a subject and a verb, it cannot stand alone. To be a complete sentence it literally depends on another clause.

Dependent clauses may begin with subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns.

Relative pronouns




who or whom

Common Subordinating Conjunctions

after since

before if

though even though although

whenever unless

where until

whereas as

whether what because

Here are some examples in which the dependent-clause fragments are underlined.

Fragment: In cities, houses are built close together. Whereas in the suburbs and the countryside, houses have large yards.

Fragment: Before explorers started sailing around the world. Many people believed the world was flat.

Fragment: We will succeed. If we try hard.

Correcting Dependent-Clause Fragments

To fix dependent-clause fragments, join the fragment to a complete sentence, or add the words required to make it a complete idea. Sentences, as you will know, are single complete ideas.

Another way is to simply delete the subordinating conjunction.

Here are the previous examples of fragments, corrected using these two ways.

Deleting the subordinating conjunction

In cities, houses are built close together. In the suburbs and the countryside, houses have large yards.

Joining sentences

Before explorers started sailing around the world, many people believed the world was flat.

We will succeed if we try hard.


The next piece of advice applies to all four kinds of fragments, as well as to writing generally.

When you edit your writing, that is, checking for errors, ask yourself this question.

Are my sentences complete?

To answer that, check for these types of fragments (the ones I have explained in this series of articles). Go back and refresh your knowledge if you need to.

· phrase fragments

· -ing and to / gerunds fragments

· explanatory fragments

· dependent-clause fragments


I hope you now have learned how to recognise and correct these kinds of fragments and to avoid them in your writing. You will find that when you get better English grammar in sentences without fragments your writing will improve.

Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on your socials with your friends. It's easy: just copy the URL and post.

(c) Apex English Tutoring Jan 2021 - Updated Nov 2023

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About the Author

Michael Finemore, MA (Research) CQU, TEFL/TESOL Certificate, an experienced English Teacher, is the Owner-Operator of Apex English Tutoring.

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